Tag Archives: writing

6 tips to find success writing for trade publications #ahcj15

Barbara Feder Ostrov

About Barbara Feder Ostrov

Barbara Feder Ostrov is a former San Jose Mercury News medical writer freelancing for Kaiser Health News. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine, Weight Watchers Magazine and EverydayHealth.com.

Pia Christensen/AHCJPeggy Peck, of MedPage Today, offers her advice on writing for trade publications during a panel moderated by Bob Finn, right, and featuring Rabiya Tuma, left, and Dan Keller.

Pia Christensen/AHCJPeggy Peck, of MedPage Today, offers her advice on writing for trade publications during a panel moderated by Bob Finn, right, and featuring Rabiya Tuma, left, and Dan Keller.

Top editors offered great advice for journalists interested in freelancing for health trade publications during a panel at Health Journalism 2015.

Trade publications for professionals working in health and medicine provide numerous freelance opportunities for journalists, but the work – while rewarding – is different than writing for a consumer audience, panelists said.

Writing for a professional audience requires a familiarity with the lingo and an understanding of the larger context of developments in a particular field, such as oncology or health information technology. Continue reading

The challenge of writing about people in poverty

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health, working to help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or @rojasburke.

When online commenters get nasty, it’s tempting to just write them off as trolls. But is it possible that sometimes journalists set the stage with cartoonish, stereotyped portrayals of the subjects in our stories, particularly when writing about people who are poor or homeless or undocumented immigrants? Can well-meaning but uncareful journalism about marginalized people do more harm than good?

These are worthy questions posed in a blog by Lori Kleinsmith, who works as a health promoter for a community health center in Ontario, Canada. Kleinsmith says:

The challenge with writing a story about someone living in poverty is that it is really just a snapshot that is unable to display a deeper context of the experience of poverty firsthand. The pathways into and out of poverty are much more complex than a snapshot and many readers are unable to see beyond the surface and to be empathetic to a person’s circumstances, choosing instead to speculate or criticize. There can also be a pitting of the working poor against those in receipt of publicly funded social assistance programs, an “undeserving poor versus deserving poor” battle. The real systemic issues about how to address poverty get lost in the war of words and degrading comments about one’s choices and lifestyle.

Kleinsmith asserts that journalists need to tell more complete stories “that provide evidence and not just emotion, and that do not further victimize those who are brave enough to speak out.” Continue reading

Shared wisdom: Balancing privacy concerns when writing about family

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Janice Lynch Schuster

Janice Lynch Schuster

Writer Janice Lynch Schuster has featured family members and herself in articles about health issues, such as her grandmother’s cognitive impairment and her family’s decision to donate her brother-in-law’s organs.

Certainly such writing has a lot of privacy concerns and so she offers advice on writing publicly about family health issues in the latest Shared Wisdom piece on AHCJ’s aging core topic site.

Forcing ideas through a tiny funnel to translate science

Sally James

About Sally James

Sally James (@jamesian) is a Seattle freelance writer who frequently covers biotechnology and research stories for magazines.

Public speaking, especially in an unforgiving fast format, gave me new insights into my own writing. It was a nail-biting adrenalin-pumping thrill ride. But I recommend it to everyone who writes.

Many of you have watched videos from the very popular organization – TED. Their motto is “ideas worth spreading.” Imagine you had to perform one of those speeches, standing on the red rug.

Here are a few things I learned from speaking in a cousin of TED, on my own red rug: Continue reading

Finding good reads on medical research

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

If guys can have bromance, surely writers are allowed a little prosemance.

Here, then, is a brief list of some of my favorite medical research bloggers:

Hilda Bastian is the editor and curator of PubMed Health. Check out her new blog for Scientific American, Absolutely Maybe, about uncertainty in medical evidence.  She talks about statistics with cartoons at Statistically Funny.

Dr. Kenneth Lin is a family practice physician in Washington D.C., and one of those people who apparently never sleeps. In addition to his practice, he’s the associate editor of American Family Physician, he’s working on his masters degree in public health and writing four blogs. My favorite is Common Sense Family Doctor, where he often talks about the application and interpretation of medical evidence — something that’s too often missing from medical study coverage.

Virginia Hughes is a masterful writer with a deep understanding of science and medicine.  She’s one of those writers who is so good, just reading her is likely to rub off and make you a better writer. Her elegant musings can be found on her blog, Only Human, for National Geographic. And fair warning, the whole Phenomena group, which also includes Brian Switek, Carl Zimmer, and Ed Yong, is pretty wonderful. Don’t blame me if you click over only to realize you’ve been reading blog posts for an hour and ignoring your own deadlines. Not that this has ever happened to me.

Nepotism alert, of sorts. Ivan Oransky, M.D., is an AHCJ board member and he’s well known to most members as the gatekeepers of our solid gold electronic discussion list (membership has its benefits!), but he’s also a darn fine blogger. Through Retraction Watch, he and Adam Marcus have trained a valuable spotlight on cases of scientific fraud that once quietly escaped notice. He also keeps an eye on issues related to journal embargoes at Embargo Watch.

Those are my picks. Now share yours. Post a comment to tell us about bloggers who make your regular reading list and why.

Making data meaningful to your readers

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Illustrating an abstract concept or data through personal narrative is a proven approach to connecting with your readers. An article in the June 4 Cape Cod Times looks at the issue of Alzheimer’s caregiver burnout through the eyes of a patient’s spouse. How many readers will immediately say “that’s me,” or “that’s my mother/friend/cousin/neighbor”?

The article cites the recent RAND study on Alzheimer’s (previously covered in this blog post) and figures from the Alzheimer’s Association local chapter.

Big numbers can be difficult for readers (and sometimes reporters) to grasp; taking it down to the individual level helps everyone relate to the situation and get their arms around the concept. Continue reading